Distance education, also known as attending college online, is a mode of delivering education beyond the typical setting of a physical classroom, and has never been more popular than now. With the Internet being a part of our daily lives, it seems natural that students and educators alike are using it to make earning a college degree more accessible.


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The Internet provides a unique service to those who are unable to attend a traditional college, due to work, busy schedules, or perhaps having children. Distance learning takes away the hassle of showing up to class, and can be utilized in the comfort of your own home.

Despite the popularity of distance learning and the wide-spread use of it, the validity of online college degrees are still up for debate. There are, however, certain industries that embrace an online degree more than others.  The three industries most likely to embrace online degrees are Internet/New Media, Technology, and High Tech, according to a study done by Vault.com. Media and Marketing, Telecommunications, and Consulting are also high on the list.

For those currently working towards earning an online degree, there are certain steps you can take to ensure your degree is seen as legitimate in the eyes of your potential employer. Employers seem to take online degrees more seriously if they’re earned through an online program offered by an accredited long-established physical institution, such as Stanford or Duke.

Of course not everyone can attend online courses offered by ivy league universities, so having industry experience is also important. Make sure the online college is certified, authorized, and/or accredited in order to earn a legitimate degree.

If you’re enrolling in a physical college’s online program, you may actually end up paying more than a traditional college’s tuition. Colleges are charging a premium for the convenience of taking online courses. For example, to earn a master’s degree at Indiana University is $23,592. However, to earn the same degree through their online program is $52,000.

The cost of a college degree is based on the number of semester hours it takes to earn it, and varies depending on the quality of instruction and the reputation of the institution. A search of available online programs show a cost as low as $50 per semester hours and as high as $1,000 per semester hour at highly respected universities.

A 2009 college costs survey by WCET and the Campus Computing project found that about half of accredited colleges which offer the same courses online as on-campus charge more for the online courses. However, according to GetEducated.com’s online education survey, the difference in cost between a traditional degree and an online option is usually no greater than 10%.

The following slideshow highlights the most popular online degrees, what type of jobs graduates can pursue, as well as salary range.

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